When does onboarding become too much of a good thing?

Ah, c’est l’amour.

For several years, countless tourists in love made a pilgrimage to the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris to pledge their undying devotion by attaching a padlock, a “love lock,” to the metal grating on the bridge.

So. Many. Locks. 

The love lock tradition has spread to a number of other cities around the world. Like the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City:
I saw the Brooklyn Bridge locks last summer when I was in New York with the family. Even enterprising street vendors were trying to capitalize on bridge-crossers in loooove by selling padlocks along the bridge. It’s definitely a thing.

The idea of love locks has brought mixed reactions among Parisian tourists and locals. Some saw it as a romantic gesture, an homage to everlasting love….others, including preservationists and city officials, saw it as a cluttered mess, ruining an otherwise historic landmark. Last year, an estimated one million locks were cut from the Pont des Arts bridge, thus ending the Love Locks tradition.

What started out as good intentions – a sweet gesture – quickly spun out of control.

If we’re not careful, the same thing can happen with our onboarding programs. We invest time, energy and resources into creating a memorable experience for our newly-hired employees – but without proper management, even a great “idea” can go awry.

Be aware of these red flags…does your onboarding program:

  • Focus on training, rather than on performance?  Spending too much time “teaching to the test,” or mastering hypothetical, simulated content, instead of preparation for real-world experience can be risky. Ensure that your content is aligned to the true working environment, and that there are ample opportunities for application and assessment.
  • Have too much show, but not enough substance?  We want our Orientation and onboarding experiences to be pleasant. We want our new employees to enjoy themselves and have them walk away feeling they made the right decision in joining our organizations. Free lunch! Scavenger hunt! More swag! All good things. Just ensure that the fun elements have purpose. 
  • Set unrealistic expectations of how amazing your organization is? Onboarding is a process that bridges the gap between the sometimes-idyllic first impressions set during the recruitment and pre-boarding process and the reality of everyday life in the company. If your new employees are pinching themselves because things are just too perfect, beware. Showcase your organization’s strengths, but keep it realistic.
  • Encourage long-term reliance on a training facilitator, rather than a supervisor, peers and resources?  In cases where “new employee training” lasts several days or even weeks, training participants often look up to their primary training instructor and view him/her as an expert. While that may be true, it is important for the primary focus to shift away from the training environment and move toward the job environment. Make an effort to enable new employees to utilize self-directed learning resources, leverage peer coaching, participate in on-the-job training and (most importantly) build a solid relationship with his/her direct supervisor.

Having a hand in the new employee experience is a privilege. Creating an experience that balances learning, engagement, immersion, relationship building and yes, fun, requires thoughtful planning and ongoing attention. Just like the locks prevented visitors from experiencing the beauty of the bridge, don’t let your organization’s heavy “locks” outweigh the value your program adds.

Your turn: What are you doing to make that experience a memorable one in your organization? Share your tips in the comments below!


The easiest tweak you can make to your training and orientation programs…

How many of you put out candy for training attendees? I know we do at the day job…in fact, the photo above is a shot of my cart on a recent stock-up trip at my local Sam’s Club. Even when the cost of doing business continues to soar, this is an expense that we have curbed, yet kept.


Because people like candy.

Before the workplace health and wellness fans start to worry, we also provide fresh fruit and some considerably less-exciting snacks like granola bars and trail mix.

Until I attended a recent conference, however, I didn’t give much thought to the bowl of candy that graces our training tables. Then, a tiny little tweak transformed a simple snack into a learning tool.

I promise you now, whether you are a long-time phase(two)learning follower or this is the first post you’ve read, this is worth the price of admission. Which, frankly, is free…so what a deal, amiright?

Check this out:


Whoa! Mind. Blown.

How simple is this? All that is needed is candy or snacks, a package of printable adhesive labels and some tips or ideas to share to your participants.

Granted, I’m sure I’m not the first person to “discover” this little nugget, but in over 20 years of teaching and facilitation, somehow it’s new to me. Regardless, it got me thinking….how else could we use this easy tip in training or Orientation programs? Here are 8 beyond-simple ideas:

  1. Provide the URL for your organization’s intranet, wiki, or other learning sites.
  2. Share the Twitter handles for influential, must-follow people in your organization or industry.
  3. Post can’t-miss dates – like when your benefit paperwork is due.
  4. Distribute your company’s IT Help Desk email or phone number.
  5. Share interesting trivia about your organization’s history. (Bonus: Have participants piece together the trivia into a timeline!)
  6. Introduce your company’s mission or purpose statement. 
  7. Solicit simple, one-sentence quotes from other employees – tips on how to be successful at your organization
  8. Share “Fact or Fiction” statements about your industry, organization, products/services, etc. Have participants stick (literally!) the wrappers under one of two columns on a flip chart (“fact” or “fiction”). As the candy is consumed throughout training, the columns will grow. On the last day of training, see how accurate everyone’s guesses are!

Honestly, I could probably come up with a dozen other ideas…there are so many creative possibilities for this one!

Your turn: Have you used this type of interactive element in your training sessions? What tips have you communicated? And most importantly, what is the must-have candy in YOUR candy bowl?

What To Do With Those 2014 Professional Development Budget Dollars?


Believe it or not, 2014 is quickly coming to an end. It doesn’t seem possible, does it?

If you’re like many L&D leaders, now is the time you’re looking at your annual department budget, and quickly trying to spend some of your allocated dollars, so you don’t have to hear this:

“If you didn’t need the money in 2014, we’re not going to approve it in 2015.”

Been there, done that? I know I have!

So, if you’re looking for an affordable professional development opportunity for you or someone on your team, why not consider registering for the newest interactive workshop experience from phase(two)learning?

Orientation Overhaul: Re-imagining the New Employee Experience in your Organization

By popular demand, phase(two)learning is partnering with Brian Washburn, Managing Director with Endurance Learning and the voice of the popular Train Like a Champion blog, this 2-day workshop will provide participants with the opportunity to:

  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses in the design and delivery of your current New Employee Orientation program
  • Define success for your New Employee Orientation program
  • Identify the essential stakeholders across your organization who should be involved in your New Employee Orientation program
  • Incorporate strategies into your Orientation program proven to increase engagement and to make sure your new employees “get it”
  • Compare and contrast what you’re currently doing with successful practices from industry-leading organizations featured in a panel discussion
  • Differentiate between must-have and nice-to-have elements in your New Employee Orientation program
  • Use concepts learned in this workshop to immediately implement changes to your current Orientation materials in a unique Design Lab session

Is re-imagining your New Employee Orientation program on your 2015 agenda? Start planning now by registering for this session, and take advantage of early bird rates!

And just for you, Phase(Two)Nation…

Use promo code FRIEND to save an additional $200 on your registration (even with the discounted group rate)!

Seating is limited for this roll-up-your-sleeves event, so reserve your spot now!

Got questions? Check out the FAQ on the registration page, or send an email today to learn more.


Know of someone who plans to re-imagine their New Employee Orientation program in 2015? Be kind and share this post!

Hiring Managers: These 5 Questions Are On Your New Employee’s Mind (so prepare for them!)

5 Questions On Your New Employee's Mind

During the interview and selection process, is can be easy for a hiring manager or company to forget that the new employee is interviewing the company, manager and team just as much as the company is looking for the best candidate for the job. Recruiters, HR leaders and managers spend so much time narrowing a competitive pool of applicants (many of whom look really, really good on paper) that by the time The One has been finally been selected, they immediately jump into Let’s Get This Rockstar Started mode.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing…it’s great to engage that incumbent right away. Does this sound familiar, hiring manager?

Related post: An Open Letter to Hiring Managers

As you are preparing for the arrival of your newest employee, it’s important to know that she probably has a number of questions bubbling beneath the surface. Questions that she might be holding back, for one reason or another. As the hiring manager, anticipate these 5 questions and incorporate them into your preboarding and onboarding plans:

1. Will I fit in with the team?

Do what you can to make introductions early. Start getting your new employee acquainted to the existing team. Encourage your team to connect with the new employee on LinkedIn or send a quick, friendly email. Create a “Who’s Who” document with photos of the team, their roles and contact information – include any key individuals the new employee will be working closely with. And be sure to organize a team lunch or social event shortly after the new employee starts!

2. Will the reality of the job/company match what I was told during the interview?

During your new employee’s first days, it is important to clear your calendar to spend ample time with the new employee. Discuss the job description. If anything has changed since the interview, or if there were any “gray areas” about the role, be sure to clarify and set expectations right away. Your new employee deserves to have a clear understanding of what is expected of her.

3. What kind of training will I receive after I start?

Prior to her first day, share an onboarding schedule with your new employee. By communicating any organization- or team-sponsored events, training or meetings upfront, you are alleviating possible stress or “fear of the unknown” that may be on her mind. It also sends a clear message to the new employee that her manager has an organized plan in place. This sets a foundation of trust: something that is easy to build, but difficult to RE-build if broken.

4. How will I contribute?

In addition to reviewing the job description and discussing the role, projects and responsibilities, take a moment to identify a few quick wins. Provide opportunities for the new employee to work independently and showcase the strengths for which she was chosen. This makes both the new employee and her manager (read: you) look good!

5. What set me apart from the other candidates?

In an earlier post, I shared a piece of advice for hiring managers to connect with their new employee and build her confidence. Remember, she has chosen your organization (and YOU) just as much as you have chosen her among the other candidates. Remind her of WHY you chose her for the role and what value she brings to your team.  If you remind the new employee of this from the beginning, she will be more likely to spend every day proving it to you.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…but it bears repeating: Be the manager you would want to work for.  Prepare for and answer these 5 questions, regardless of whether your new employee asks them.

Because chances are, they’re on that new employee’s mind.


Your turn: What conversations do you have with a new employee, either before or after the start date? Share your go-to talking points in the comments below!


Know of a manager who would appreciate this post? Please be kind and share it!


Don’t miss a beat!

So many exciting things are happening with phase(two)learning in 2015! Join our email list and be in the know for events, updates and special news!

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ANNOUNCEMENT: Does Your New Employee Orientation Program Need an Overhaul?

Orientation Overhaul Logo JPEG format cropped


We’ve been hinting around at a big announcement for the past few weeks, and here it is!  By popular demand, we are excited to announce the newest public workshop offering from phase(two)learning!

Join us March 9-10, 2015 for Orientation Overhaul: Re-imagining the New Employee Experience in your Organization!

New Employee Orientation is often a lackluster rite of passage for new employees – consisting of little more than paperwork, policies and procedures. Unfortunately, many programs fail to grasp this unique opportunity to connect with their newest associates, harness their natural new-employee excitement and ignite their passion for your organization…which fuels employee engagement, learning and long-term retention.

So, let’s give it an overhaul! By the end of this workshop, you will be able to:

  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses in the design and delivery of your current New Employee Orientation program
  • Define success for your New Employee Orientation program
  • Identify the essential stakeholders across your organization who should be involved in your New Employee Orientation program
  • Incorporate strategies into your Orientation program proven to increase engagement and to make sure your new employees “get it”
  • Compare and contrast what you’re currently doing with successful practices from industry-leading organizations with an inspiring Onboarding Luminary discussion panel
  • Differentiate between must-have and nice-to-have elements in your New Employee Orientation program
  • Use concepts learned in this workshop to immediately implement changes to your current Orientation materials in our unique Design Lab session

Who should attend?

  • HR & Talent Acquisition leaders who are responsible for their organization’s New Employee Orientation program
  • Learning & Talent Development professionals who are involved in developing or delivering New Employee Orientation content
Learn more and register here

If your New Employee Orientation could use a reboot – we can assure you, this session is for you. And trust us, it will not be a passive, boring, lecture-laden session…this will be an intensive, roll-up-your-sleeves opportunity to immediately work on your own Orientation materials. The workshop will conclude with a unique Design Lab, which will allow you to take advantage of ideas from other participants, as well as receiving coaching and feedback from your facilitators to begin your own overhaul before you leave – and before you get distracted back in the office!

Seating is limited…reserve your spot today!

Yes, I keep saying “we” – so, who’s helping me with this?

This workshop is a joint venture between myself and Brian Washburn, the voice of the popular Train Like a Champion blog. Brian has been working in instructional design and workshop facilitation for over 16 years. He is the co-founder and managing director of Endurance Learning, an organization whose vision is for every presentation to be engaging and lead to change. Brian has worked with organizations across North and South America, Asia and Africa in order to help improve the engagement and interactivity of their training programs. He has served as the national training director of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (CASA) and the Global Learning & Development manager for SightLife, the world’s largest eye bank. In 2011, Brian was named a Top Young Trainer by Training Magazine in recognition of his contributions to the training field before the age of 40. You can read more about his philosophy on training design and delivery at his blog, and you can connect with him on Twitter at @flipchartguy.


Register NOW to reserve your seat and take advantage of Early Bird savings! 

Use up those 2014 training budget dollars, or start making plans for 2015 by registering today! You’ll save $100 per person, or even more if you take advantage of the group discount or table sponsor opportunity. Check out the registration page to learn more.


Here’s what we need from you, Phase(Two)Nation:

  • Please take a look at the registration page and consider attending the workshop on March 9-10, 2015
  • Share this post with colleagues and friends who are involved with their organization’s New Employee Orientation program
  • Join the phase(two)learning email list so you are in the loop about other upcoming events and updates!

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Got any questions about this event? Reach out to Michelle anytime to learn more.

Hiring Manager Tip: Start Building a Relationship Before the New Employee’s First Day


Picture this: A hiring manager is eager to fill a key role on his team, and finally finds the right candidate. An offer is made, and ultimately accepted.

(Cue the Hallelujah Chorus)

Been there, hiring managers?

As soon as that offer has been accepted, the clock is ticking. In many cases, you have about two weeks to prepare for the new employee’s arrival and craft an onboarding plan.

Yes, you. You have about two weeks, hiring manager. It’s not enough to simply plan for the new employee to attend New Employee Orientation through your trusty HR department. Oh, no. Hiring manager, you are the gateway to a positive, successful onboarding experience. 

In addition to ensuring the new employee has a workstation and appropriate equipment, you should be considering the ways you will introduce your newest team member to the company, team and role. It is also up to you to begin building a solid relationship with this quazi-stranger, who will soon be an integral part of your team’s – and let’s face it, your – success.

One of my favorite ways to accomplish this is to get to know your new employee on a personal level. This isn’t rocket science! You are not hiring a robot – you are hiring a person. Learn about this person, and use what you learn to make the new employee’s first days with your team special. After all, his/her first impressions of your company (and YOU as the manager) will impact how motivated s/he is to learn, grow and stay with your organization long-term. After all, according to 2013 research by Aberdeen, as many as 90% of organizations believe new employees make their decision to stay within the first year. The foundation set by the hiring manager is a key component to this decision.

So, the question is: “How do I get to know my new employee before the first day?”

My advice: It’s all about the communication you extend during the preboarding period – typically that two-week span of time between the offer acceptance and the new employee’s first day.

A few thoughts:

1. Make a point to let the new employee know how excited you are that s/he will be joining your team. 

Do this through an email, a phone call, or even a handwritten note via snail mail. It only takes a few moments and a small amount of effort, but the genuine, warm feeling the new employee will receive is undeniable. Make him/her excited for Day One!

2. Craft a plan for the first 1-2 weeks….and share it ahead of time.

Schedule a team lunch. Connect the new employee with key individuals s/he will be working with for informal meet-and-greet sessions. Do an office “drive-by” to make introductions to people who sit nearby. Schedule plenty of time with YOU to discuss the role, the onboarding plan, to set goals and establish expectations. Sharing this ahead of time helps relieve new-job jitters…s/he can relax, knowing you have it all under control.

3. Learn about the fun stuff.

Send an email, letting the new employee you have a very important task for him/her to complete ASAP. Attach a questionnaire for the new employee to complete, telling you about his/her favorite things.

Guess what? I’ve created one for you! Click on the image below to download!



It’s not enough to just have him/her share his favorite things with you….USE the information you gather to:

4. Make the first day special.

Have a fresh bouquet of her favorite flowers waiting on her desk. Fill a candy jar with his favorites. Treat him to lunch at his favorite restaurant. Show up with her favorite Starbucks order. Determine what works best for your style, your team and culture, and go for it!

Make that new employee ridiculously excited to work on YOUR team. Be the manager you’d like to work for!


Your turn: Managers, how do you start building a relationship with your newest employees as they join your team? Share your ideas in the comments below!


Know of a hiring manager who could benefit from these tips? Be kind and share it!



So, what’s this BIG NEWS we keep talking about?

On November 1st, registration will be LIVE for a new public workshop!

Orientation Overhaul: Re-imagining the New Employee Experience in your Organization

Seating will be limited for this interactive, roll-up-your-sleeves session, so stay tuned for more details in just a few days! Join the mailing list and be among the first to know!

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Just can’t wait? Send an email to learn more! 

Onboarding Should be Relational, not Transactional


Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that get under a person’s skin and drives. them. absolutely. crazy.

For me, it’s the term “new hire.” Seems innocent, right? I’m sure about 99.2% of people in the free world wouldn’t think twice about the expression, but it’s one I simply cannot stand.

In fact, I told my friend Brian the other day that “I die a little bit inside every time someone says ‘new hire’.” Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but hear me out:

Onboarding should be relational, not transactional.

“Hire” is a verb. It suggests transaction, or something that you do. When I hear someone referred to as a “new hire,” I immediately think that person isn’t an official part of the organization yet. In fact, when we look at the top definition for hire, this is what we see:


Am I saying there is no “transaction” involved in the process? Not at all. I get it, there is paperwork to complete, processes to follow, content to share. But that is not the end-all-be-all to onboarding a new employee.


Onboarding is a process that immerses a new employee (noun!) into an organization.

I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, of us want our newest employees to feel welcomed, nurtured and included when they join the organizations we support. Your new employees are people, with needs and emotions and questions.

There is so much more to onboarding than the simple act of “hiring” a person.

When building a culture that welcomes, nurtures and includes new employees (particularly when there hasn’t been much of a process in place), an easy place to start is with the language you are using. It may be subtle – maybe even unnoticed – but being intentional with a detail as seemingly tiny as “new hire vs. new employee” sends a message to your organization that you are committed to building relationships with your newest employees.

Want to blow people’s minds? Tell them about it.

Tell your onboarding stakeholders and company leaders about your decision to use intentional language. Tell them that your team is committed to making onboarding a relational process, rather than a transactional one. This can be a huge value-add for your program.

Guess what? The benefit of intentional language goes beyond onboarding. Consider your language for learning, development and succession planning programs as well.


Your turn: Am I crazy? Is this just being a little too nit-picky? Tell me about it. Or tell me that this is brilliant, and it will revolutionize your program. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Know of someone who would benefit from this article? Please take a moment to share it!


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